Eye of the tiger

I’d been looking forward to it all week. The long run. Which these days, for me is 10k.

I haven’t run much over that distance all year and the last time I ran it was at the Hellhole race in October. My training volume has really dropped off. September was understandable. No half marathon to train for and a much anticipated week’s writing in Adalucia. Time to slow down, and take stock after a full-on triathlon-focused season. But the drift has continued through October and November.

No more early morning’s cycling before work. Too dark. Too dangerous. Running cut back to 30 minute easy jaunts at lunchtime out to the nature reserve to soak up some vitamin D and enjoy some running company.

Thank goodness for my Thursday PT sessions which still remind me I have the discipline to get up and get out to train in the dark and the cold before the rest of the world thinks much about waking. They are my hardest workout of the week, but leave me feeling alive, awake and achey in a good way.

So to the run. And boy, was it hard work. Even after a lie in until the light came through the window. Even after my porridge, breakfast of champions.

No need for the buff wrapped round my neck to shield my ears. No need for gloves, dropped back through my letterbox as soon as I ventured outside and realised it would be fine enough to go without them, even at a moderate pace.

And so, out onto a familiar path beside the sea. A china blue sky and no demands or expectations beyond the run. Steady to start, easy breathing, not pushing the speed, just trying to find a rhythm, warm through the muscles and set on my way. The watch worn, but I paid it no attention. I don’t even think I heard it beep.

Runners and cyclists out smiling and nodding. I’m passed by a number and admire the speedy bounce of a young lad who I regularly see out here. My mind wanders as I pick up the paths by Spanish City. This already feels like hard work. How far should I go?

The negative thoughts speak of tight knees, tight hips and plodding footfall. Remind me I have no distance this year, no running triumphs. Taunt me with ‘Good job you’re not planning a spring marathon,’ then dig the knife in reminding me how hard it will be to do half that distance come September. Because, yes, I’ve signed up for the Great North Run again.

Hello monkeys. You haven’t come out to play for a while have you? Not while I’ve kept my challenges within my comfort zone. Now I must exercise my thoughts to banish my mental restraints.

I had come prepared for this. I rarely run with music when I’m outdoors. But sometimes it’s helped break the stride of a long run. And I had my headphones tucked in a sweatband pocket. I stop at the bus stop and break them out.

I instantly remember why I don’t run with music. The cord flaps until I get it the right length. The headphones drop from my ears. Then there’s that track on my run playlist that I don’t really like and keep forgetting to take off.

But still the music is helping me pick up my feet, banishing the limiting, negative thoughts. Though now I have to pay attention to avoid the walkers on the narrow paths, approaching in silhouette, against the low sun.

I plough on. Through the full set of niggles. Right shoulder, left hip, left knee. And then my right foot sets to pins and needles and I know, without doubt, that I’ll not shake it until I stop.

This is meant to be fun. A treat anticipated since last Sunday. It doesn’t much feel like it.

I start to do deals. Run for an hour. But that 10k distance will be mere minutes more, that an hour will feel like a cop out. In truth as always, I have to get back to where I started, run or walk – so I might as well run it. I’m about to take out the headphones, the music now fuelling my irritable dissatisfaction. But the next song starts with a familiar riff. Da….da,da da…da,da,da….Da! Come on man, it’s Rocky!

I smile at the cheesiness and run to the driving beat. It makes me pick up my feet and my speed, when I thought I was just about all in. So I hit repeat and run until it finishes a second time, past the 10k mark and beyond. As it fades away I stop and breathe and stretch.

The words may be cheesy, but they strike chords today:

“Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet…

Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive…

Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I’m not going to stop…”

I finished feeling like I wanted to go on despite those earlier rumblings. Hold that thought. Take that positivity into the next run. I set myself a goal and I got there.

When I took on my first half marathon, I wasn’t running 6 miles in December. On my last standard tri, I told myself truthfully that I could run 6 miles before breakfast.  It’s a start. A first step. Let’s see where it takes me.


Author: The Scribbler

I'm a writer, based in the North East of England. In my working life I give a human voice to business communications. As well as writing, reading and language, I enjoy running and triathlons and I often write about races and events in the North East

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